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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  May 20, 2012 1:25pm-1:50pm EDT

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cultures, and she's the author of words and not swords, iranian writers, and the freedom of movements. what's your book about? >> guest: first, i'd like to thank you for giving me the honor to speak with you and to introduce my book to your wonderful audience. i would also like to add that i have a joint appointment with women studies at the university of virginia, and i'm very proud to be a member of that department. that program, hopefully a department soon. "words not swords" is about sex segregation in the islamic world, in particular iran. the focus of the book is on iranian women, although i
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believe the main thesis can be applied to the islamic middle east and north africa. i have a clear argument in the book. i argue that in the last 160 years, women have been at the forefront modernizing movement in iran and in parts of the middle east and north africa by desegregating themselves, by desegregating the social space, by desegregating the dominant discourse. >> host: how have they gone about that desegregation? what are some of their methods? >> guest: well, let me first also talk bow the second main -- about the second main argument of the book. i believe women writers have
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been at the forefront of this modernizing movement, and i hope we will have the time to discuss why and how. well, what have been some of the techniques and some of the strategies? in the early years of islam, i believe women have been active participants in the social life of the community, in the social discourse. there is, in fact, a chapter in the koran that talks about women who discuss and argue with the profit mohammed. that's how active they were. they went to war. in fact, women, one of the profits' wives was the commander of an army. in the early years of islam,
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women, were more actives than they were in the following years. for centuries, most modern societies, and i have to adhere that not all islamic societies, modern majority countries, are necessarily hom ogenius, but i think that's patterns that continue in these societies. for instance, sex segregation. what is sex segregation? it's the division of the social space into the world of men, that's the world of politics, the outside world, the streets, the world of money, and whatnot. the inside is the world of women. what is considered the private. now, progressively over the course of the last 14 centuries,
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women were segregated further and further. it is only in the middle of the 19th century that some men and some women thought that the societies being deprived of the contribution of half its population in the public arena so you might be surprised to know that as early as 1848, there was a congregation in iran of which before the cop venges in up-- convention in upstate new york in which men and women discussed and, in fact, enacted the desegregation of women.
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>> host: where did you come up with the title "words not swords"? >> guest: it was a long process. it took me about 16 years to finish this book. in app earlier book, i had mainly focused on the vail, and after awhile, and towards the end of that book, in fact, i had come to realize that we criticize the vail, that the issue is not the vail, be -- but there is something else, and i couldn't put my finger on it so through the help of women writers and iranian women and modern women in other parts of the world, i came to realize that this division of space, that this denial of the freedom of movements to women was really the cause and the symptom of
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gender inequality, that in order to have a democratic society, in order for women to have their human rights and human dignity, they need to be free to leave their home and to return to it as they wish. ..
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and she was a woman that appropriated the topic. and she allowed herself to really paint this picture. and i continued until the revolution. we don't have enough cultural or literary figures from the rest of the world, as you know. united states of america, the land i love and have adopted as
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my home, in recent decades has paid less and less attention. especially to literary translation. in the last 32 years come in the number of books translated, there has been a lot more translation of english literature in several countries than there has been in america. >> host: is there a contemporary writer in iran that you would recommend for people? >> guest: absolutely. let me first say that in spite of the islamic, or perhaps because of it, the lechery
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regime is going down in iran. and women are in center stage. i can give you one example about women. in 1947, we have the first major collection of short stories. there is a novelist but unfortunately passed away a couple of weeks ago. at the age of 90. women poets in iran go back several thousand years. poetry is more of a woman's thinking, act come and form. you don't need to go to a
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studio, you don't need directors, you don't need a cruel. it is a women's art. in 1947, it is the fifth major literary [inaudible] come and then you have a handful of women novelists, and right now we have about 370 women women novelists in iran, equal to the number of men. another brave woman, we call her the lightness of iran, she has wisdom and fairness and a conscientious and history.
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in the last six decades, especially in the last decade. she is the national poet of her country. not recognized by the government as such, but recognized by the people inside and outside the country. she's recognized as the national poet, and the first time a woman has become a national poet in that country. >> host: professor farzaneh milani, where were you born and raised and where did you study? >> guest: i was born in iran. my parents devoted everything they had to the education of their children. a semi from grade school through high school. i was raised part of my years in iran by catholic nuns.
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>> host: in french? >> guest: in french. we had a wonderful coeducational school. it was run by nuns. >> host: were your parents will be? >> guest: not excessively rich, but they were part of the upper-middle-class. >> host: would you consider your family to be a secular family or a devout family? >> guest: i would say life has opposites. divisions don't mean much to me. my parents, they were muslim. my mother was not a practicing
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muslim. she prayed, she tested. she fasted. i consider myself a staple of women's studies, and i would say my first teacher was my mother. >> host: when did you come to see the united states? where did you go to university? >> guest: i arrived in the united states of america on december 17, 1967. i went to cal state in california where i earned a bachelor's degree of arts in french literature. then i moved to ucla. i studied french literature there, too, and was almost done
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with my graduate studies, and i knew i was going to write a dissertation on met him [inaudible name]. i decided to switch majors to comparative literature so that i can write about education and iranian women poets. whom i love. many of my teachers, except for one, thought that it was a professional choice of sorts. some of my teachers jokingly told me that she has an unpronounceable name. it was a labor of love.
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eventually, it became a turning point in my life, and i am very glad that i listened to my heart >> host: professor farzaneh milani, did you stay in the states after that? >> guest: yes, i have not let this country. after graduation, i had a job offer from the university. >> host: prerevolution? >> guest: it was just around the revolution time. my parents didn't think it was the right thing to return, by that time i had children and i love this country and i did not go back. i have lived here since then. >> host: have you visited iran over the years? >> guest: for a few years after the revolution.
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because i believe in season of conscience, because i have, in fact, i have started both of my literary books with someone who is considered important in islamic culture. for me, she is a precursor of women's liberty traditions and the women's movement in the country. i thought it was not wise to go back, neither did my parents. but when the country was liberalized, i went back. for the last seven years i have not gone back. >> host: what was your experience when you did go back?
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did you visit the university's end women writers? or was it a family trip? >> guest: no, i visited with family for the most part, but i considered women writers and artists my literary mothers. so i visited with a number of them. as i told you at the beginning, i believe in iranian literature. there are many women writers. many who write beautiful works of art. we have more women directors in the last decade in iran than we have had in the whole previous 100 years of civil history in my country. we had women painters, we have women dancers, singers, you name
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it. we have fantastic women. actors, as you know, and iranian movies, fantastic iranian movies. separation is one from this year. women are not exactly as they are perceived to be in the u.s. if you put aside the government of iran, if you focus on the people of iran, you will see that the civil rights movement like in north africa and a literary movement is going to happen. >> host: professor, when you get
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people from the west talk about the need to modernize, what do you think? >> guest: , i tell them the desire to modernize iran started more than 160 years ago. i said that many men and women have sacrificed life in search of human dignity and democracy and gender equity. i tell them that if we don't start a war in, a new one, we can stop that civil movement in iran. and i pray that this nonviolent movement that has started in iran would be allowed to floor -- flourish so that it would be
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able to. the focus of my book is on nonviolent tradition of problems. nonviolent resolution of problems. as i say time and again, [inaudible name] was a timeless writer. as you know, she was married to a serial killer. you know? he had been betrayed by his wife, queen, and he has said that he will never be betrayed by women again. after the confirmation of relationship with a woman, he would behead that woman in the morning. so that she will never get a chance to betray him again.
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and the storyteller decides that she can cure him with words, not swords, and she did, i believe in the power of words. i believe in the power of words. >> host: what is the photograph on the front of your book? >> this is a photograph of one of iran's artists. she is a dear friend of mine. she retitling and generously allowed us to use this photograph. it is from one of her films. it is a fantastic film. it is a group of women who are veiled, but who are running. since the central pieces of that in my book is the issue of
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figure less list movement, i thought it was most appropriate. i use the term a stark photograph. it is a photograph expertly shot. >> host: we have been talking with professor farzaneh milani. here's the cover of the book. this is booktv on c-span 2. >> you are watching 48 hours of nonfiction authors and books on c-span 2's booktv. >> to get right into it, i want to set the stage about the 1930s and to explain that part of what led to world war ii being such an odd people for the united states were the policies of franklin roosevelt during the 1930s. to give you some statistics, i will be brief on those, for instance, factory output.
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the output of american industry increased every decade beginning in 1899 for the following 10 years, factory output was up 14.7%. from 1990 it was up again. at 1919 to 1929, vector production was up by .1% each year. the 1929 to 1939, it decreased slightly every single year during the 1930s. our industrial complex by 1939 has aged. it is out of touch with cutting edge innovations that are going on in europe and elsewhere. and suddenly we are faced with this problem of a military complex in europe. we don't have anything to compete with them. in the book, i mentioned that
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army chief of staff mcarthur, testified before congress in 1935, pleading for enough money so that his army would have enough bullets for 100,000 soldiers. we are not talking about stealth bombers or complex weapons here. we are talking literally about just even enough bullets to me in 100,000 men in army. i can certainly understand, if you are not for a strong military, american presence overseas, which we don't necessarily need, but i do think that a strong defense of america words up problems. in the 1930s, we certainly didn't have that, and germany was aware of that and so was to pin. that leads to a lot of problems. the war, of course, comes along to the united stat
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